Space

SpaceX hails test flight of prototype rocket Starship despite crash

SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket explodes during a return-landing attempt.
SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket explodes during a return-landing attempt. REUTERS - GENE BLEVINS
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Space X hailed the test of its prototype rocket Starship despite it crashing and exploding during an experimental flight on Wednesday. "Mars, here we come!!" SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted just minutes after the flight, explaining that a too-fast landing speed was to blame for the crash. 

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The test launch took off and ascended properly in a seemingly straight line, before one and then another of its engines went out.

After 4 minutes and 45 seconds of flight, its third engine extinguished and the rocket began its descent in its expected position.

The engines were restarted just seconds before landing in an effort to slow the ship, but it crashed hard into the Earth.

 

SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket during a return-landing attempt after it launched from their facility on a test flight.
SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket during a return-landing attempt after it launched from their facility on a test flight. REUTERS - GENE BLEVINS

But the company was upbeat as a livestream of the launch displayed the on-screen message "AWESOME TEST. CONGRATS STARSHIP TEAM!" "We got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team," Musk tweeted. 

Smaller prototypes have already blasted off several hundred meters into the air for less than a minute as part of a series of tests aimed at developing the next generation of rockets.

After several aborted attempts this week, the flight was livestreamed on the company's Twitter account. 

SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket explodes during a return-landing attempt after it launched from their facility on a test flight.
SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket explodes during a return-landing attempt after it launched from their facility on a test flight. REUTERS - GENE BLEVINS

The test flight was planned to check the huge metal body of SN8 (Starship number 8) and its three engines for their aerodynamics, including during the ship's return to Earth -- which happens vertically, in the same vein as SpaceX's pioneering Falcon 9 rocket. 

"With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship," a statement on the company's website said, implying even before the launch that an explosion or crash would not mean a failed mission.

Construction on SN9, the next prototype, is already almost finished.

Any future completed Starship rocket will be equipped with 37 engines instead of nine, and will measure 120 meters (390 feet) tall and be capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo into orbit around the Earth.

Musk hopes to be able to one day launch several of these space ships to Mars, though they could prove useful even in the short term as NASA eyes re-establishing an ongoing presence on the Moon in 2024.

 - (AFP)

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